Proverbs 31 Mama

This is my idea of a career woman:

She seeks wool and flax,
      And willingly works with her hands.
       14 She is like the merchant ships,
      She brings her food from afar.
       15 She also rises while it is yet night,
      And provides food for her household,
      And a portion for her maidservants.
       16 She considers a field and buys it;
      From her profits she plants a vineyard.
       17 She girds herself with strength,
      And strengthens her arms.
       18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
      And her lamp does not go out by night.
       19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
      And her hand holds the spindle.
       20 She extends her hand to the poor,
      Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
       21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
      For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
       22 She makes tapestry for herself;
      Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
       23 Her husband is known in the gates,
      When he sits among the elders of the land.
       24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
      And supplies sashes for the merchants.
       25 Strength and honor are her clothing;
      She shall rejoice in time to come.

She is up while it is dark. She helps her husband provide for the family. She supervises a large household, but she’s also diversified into farming and a few other things. She’s making clothing for people, but she’s also doing commerce. She’s nicely dressed, and her household is spiffy enough that people respect her husband. I imagine him a little well-fed looking, sleek and content. She gives to the needy and later on it also tells us she is wise and her advice is sought.

It is interesting to me how some Biblical teachers go from this womanly ideal (granted, she isn’t Deborah or Ruth or Esther or Mary)  to arrive at a vision of submissiveness, demure, quiet. Nowhere in this chapter – or elsewhere – do we read “she is adorned from head to toe in gray wool, as a Bruderhoff woman ought to be.” Nowhere do we find her sitting quietly in the kitchen playing with food all day.

She’s busy and she’s clearly working at home and outside the home. Wherefore, oh stay-at-home Christian mothers, ariseth the condemnation?

We have a very busy God, and he likes to see us busy too. That doesn’t mean women have to work outside the home, but it also doesn’t mean they must be at home either. I am persuaded this choice is based on the needs of each family,  in alignment with both spouses’ gifts. Martha wasn’t chided for being busy, she was chided for her stress levels (and for not taking a time out when she should have). Mary her sister wasn’t praised for being lazy either, the Lord approved of her decision to put Him first. So there is a balance, between our activity and our quiet, our rest and our calling, our children and our work.

I would dearly love to be back at home with my children. They are growing very fast, and in eighteen short months they will all be in school. I was at home for three years while the last three were babies and it was heavenly. I consciously enjoyed every minute because I knew it would not be forever, and it wasn’t. It is heartbreaking to kiss them every morning as I’m leaving while they are still in bed.

At the same time, I know my sisters who are at home with their children are also painfully busy, experiencing some of the same struggles that I do: do I clean or read to my children? Do I serve at the church or spend the time with my husband? Do we manage with a little less money or should I find a job to help with our bottom line?

  15 She also rises while it is yet night,
      And provides food for her household.

I’m home in time to make and serve a family dinner, to do the homework routine and I don’t miss the special events – performances, teacher meetings and sick days. Our weekends are totally and completely family-centered, and there is not a lot of “me” time in my life, mainly because I don’t need or want it. I want that time with the small people I spend the rest of the week working for.

They love it when I’m working at home, or taking a day off, or doing an activity with them. But at the same time, they enjoy all the things my additional salary provides, and they see us giving, sharing and providing for others. Unless God tells me it’s time for a change – and shows us how to live on one salary without my husband imploding from panic – then this is how it will be for now.

This is my dilemma: the path before me is my current post, safe and familiar with lots of flexibility, or the new one that I think I’m being directed towards, but with it – the chance of returning home to the babies is diminished.

Am I supposed to be a voice for God in the workplace? Am I supposed to be like this woman, and clothe my family in scarlet? We shall see, we shall see. Either way – this is the truth that I know that I know that I know: Serve the Lord with Gladness, enter into his gates with Thanksgiving.

Where there is serving, there must also be gladness and thanksgiving. Wherever there is serving, there must be gladness and thanksgiving.

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